Monday, December 23, 2013

Another Look At Video Games

We keep hearing in the news about the effect violent video games have on our children. Every time there's a school shooting or any crime involving young perpetrators, video games and television are brought up as possible “causes” of the violent behavior. But is there really any truth to this? Are video games even partially to blame, or is that just a cop-out? Can video games or any other entertainment adversely affect your child's personality? If so, is there a way to keep it from happening to your child? Here are some pros and cons I've collected for you to consider. I won't site statistics so much as the basic ideas.

Some people think that violent video games de-sensitize kids to violence and teach them that it's an acceptable way for an angry person to solve conflict. The converse to that idea is that video games are an outlet for said anger in much the same way using a punching bag might; you take out your anger on the bag instead of your little brother or the school bully.

Another argument for video games is that kids understand that it's only a game and that shooting zombies isn't something that will carry over into real life. The problem with this is that the games that are being complained about aren't the ones that shoot zombies, but the ones that feature humans doing things that you would never want your child to do or see. Games like the Grand Theft Auto series show humans doing things like killing prostitutes and evading law enforcement. The sexual content of some games is definitely too “grown” for children. Whatever the content, it's not the gaming industry's job to put out wholesome content; it's our jobs to teach our children (and sometimes remind ourselves) the values we feel are correct. A lot of the time, someone will choose not to play the game/watch the movie/listen to the music their friends listen to because they find it offensive to their values. This is a very good thing that shows that our guidance is “working”.

Another argument is that the advisories and rating systems that the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) have affixed to the games starting in 1994 are meant to tell parents what sort of content is in the game. It's done in the same way we see on television shows and music

There have been several attempts by lawmakers at all levels to make it against the law for a store to sell such games to people under a certain age, but none have been passed so far.

I remember my parents would watch TV with me and say things like, “you know that's fake, right?” or that I shouldn't do whatever it is we're watching. Most of the time I already knew what I was seeing was wrong or stupid, but not always. Perhaps the same thing can apply to video games.

It's not just *about* bad influences, though; sometimes the images themselves are the problem. The biggest problem with me when it came to movies and TV wasn't wanting to imitate what I saw so much as being upset by certain things. I saw Schindler's List when I was 17 and had nightmares for a week. Your children could be similarly affected by the content of some games, even if they aren't usually impressionable. I wasn't. That's something else to consider, and something else to tell your child when he complains about not being allowed to buy certain games or movies. Every child is different in what s/he can tolerate, but tell them you don't like what you're seeing and don't think it's something a kid should have to see or think about.

Ultimately it's up to you to decide what you want your children to see. Personally, there are several things out there that I would never let a child watch-at least, not without close supervision. I'd certainly never buy these sorts of things for them, which is what “fuels” the industry more than anything else. A lot depends on the individual child, what they watch and what sort of guidance you give them. While it is true that a tween or teen's peers often have more influence over them than parents, that doesn't mean that you don't have a “say” or that they aren't still following the guidance you've given them.

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